As a second son, there was little I hated more than the hand-me-down clothes of my older brother. Not just because he let Mum decide for him what to wear, but because I had to suffer the insult of growing into these discarded monstrosities. Design and designer were beneath my brother’s interest; absent was the tick of cross-stitching that increased a t-shirt’s value by more than ambered caviar, and in its place some hilarious approximation; maybe a bee with a hat. By the time I had donned them I looked as foreign and out of date as a jar of Soviet jam.
But the undeniable queen of hand-me-downs is Eva Ottosson: the 54 year old Swede who is donating her retired uterus so that her daughter (who was born without one) may carry children. Sara, the receiver, has insisted it isn’t weird. But it is weird. Weird in a good way, mind, not like Morris dancing. More like cheese string.
Taking the ‘bag of life’ idea further than Waitrose ever intended, Sara is getting a veteran womb; she knows it works and could probably tell you how comfy it is. You know they built things to last back then, too; I’ve got a Super Nintendo that’s faced off enough Xboxs to prove it. And nowadays, Sara’s children aren’t likely to be teased about their gestational home, but blessed with that holiest of hipster praise, ‘Vintage.’
Although I’d never normally condone sentiments of a “keep it in the family” nature, there’s something heartening about this exceptional gift, even if it has done the rounds a bit (she had two children). Newness isn’t equivalent to worth; the best things, like people, come with a history/massive (emotional) damage. If it wasn’t for the fact that my car doesn’t have airbags, I might have driven irresponsibly enough to kill myself.
And as much as I hated it at the time, I’m glad to have endured my playground humiliation. I’m glad that whenever I whined my father would counter, “Life Isn’t Fair.” And I’m glad that I wasn’t my sister, who is two years my junior, and the third link in the hand-me-down chain to hell. But as unbearable as it was to see my dad strutting to ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’, I’ve seen the alternative: the self-entitled tyrants on My Super Sweet Sixteen. Even Aldous Huxley couldn’t have conjured more consumerist brats from his worst LSD nightmares.
Our sense of identity and self-worth has become so intrinsically linked with the products we desire, that we mistake someone owning an iPad or a ‘pimped’ ride as having a personality. I enjoy people going ‘ooo’ over my latest purchase as much as the next sap, but hold onto anything long enough and they’ll be just as surprised to see you’re still using a Nokia3210.
And besides, in these times of austerity, it’s too expensive to be an Apple bitch, so find a library (if you can) and spoil yourself with culture! I think I can agree with my dad and Mick Jagger that it’s not a bad thing to not get what we want, in fact, you might just find, it’s exactly what we need.